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Discipline, communication ‘the standard’  for Jackson State softball in 2019 season

The team has faced a lot of adversity, something that first-year head coach Kevin Montgomery looks to overcome this season.

Discipline, communication ‘the standard’  for Jackson State softball in 2019 season

Kevin Montgomery is new at Jackson State, but he’s watched enough film to know what his team’s biggest problem was last year.

“This team is used to quitting, giving up,” Montgomery said.

“We want to fight until the end, no matter what the scoreboard looks like.”

Montgomery also said communication will be key to the Tigers success on the field

“It’s a team sport and it takes everybody to be on the same page communicating the same information to be successful,” Montgomery said.

The Jackson State softball team kicked off the season Friday as the Tigers travel to Hattiesburg, Mississippi for the Black and Gold Invitational at the University of Southern Mississippi.

The Tigers will play four games over the weekend, beginning at 3:30 p.m. Friday and 12:30 p.m. Saturday against the University of Central Arkansas. Then, later on Saturday afternoon, the JSU will play Houston Baptist and ending the tournament on Sunday morning against Tennessee Tech.

Jackson State finished the 2018 season at 9-31 and 3-15 in Southwestern Athletic Conference (SWAC) play.

The Tigers return some key players from a year ago along with some new faces that include first baseman Alexis Hanspard, outfielder Kelsey Smith, shortstop Kayla Owens and third baseman Yasmin Melero.

Hanspard finished the 2018 season with the fifth-best batting average in the SWAC (.402), recording nine runs, 41 hits, 15 RBIs, eight doubles and two home runs.

Smith, who was selected for preseason First-Team All-SWAC softball honors, played in 36 games last season and recorded a batting average of .327 with 19 RBIs, 10 doubles, two home runs and a triple. The Waynesboro, Mississippi native also slugged .505.

Owens finished fourth in the SWAC in on-base percentage in 2018.

Melero, a third baseman, begins her first year in a Tigers’ uniform. The El-Paso, Texas native comes to Jackson State as a junior transfer from Navarro Community College.

Melero said the team is really starting to come together as the season begins.

“I feel like we’ve all grown a lot as a team,” Melero said.

“We’re really far along as far as all of the adversity we faced in the fall and stuff like that. I feel like we are actually a team now.”

As the season starts, Melero said communication and her teammates holding each other accountable will be key throughout the season.

“We kind of started to understand what it means to play for the person right next to you and play for the people on the field with you and play for the name on the front and not the back,” Melero said.

The Tigers were predicted to finish fifth in the SWAC East in the preseason conference rankings.

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